Northern Alta. man stuck in Edmonton indefinitely for dialysis treatment
A northern Alberta man is not expecting to be home for the holidays because he needs regular dialysis treatment and the nearest facility that can take him on is 200 kilometres away.
Rick Hilligas gets dialysis three days a week in Edmonton, with a two-day break every Sunday and Monday. His accommodations in the capital city are covered.
However, he has made the four-hour round trip back to his town, Plamondon, only once since starting the regimen in mid-October. Driving the distance regularly, Hilligas says, is not financially feasible and potentially dangerous in the winter.
The situation is frustrating for him, as a new dialysis unit 30 kilometres away from his home opened four years ago.
"I'm wondering why they would spend the money to have it there and then I can't access it," Hilligas told CTV News Edmonton in a recent interview.
He says he was not given a clear explanation as to why the William J. Cadzow - Lac La Biche Healthcare Centre couldn't take him on as a patient.
"The reason was there was no dialysis available for me because, for whatever reason, they were full."
Nor was Hilligas told how long he would have to get treatment in Edmonton.
"I started on Oct. 13 and expected to be home by the beginning of November. Well now, we're almost to the beginning of December," he said. "They can't tell me when I can go home or even if I can go home."
The Lac La Biche dialysis unit was opened in 2018 – replacing a dialysis bus – to increase access in Alberta's north medical zone.
It operates Monday, Wednesday and Friday and has capacity for 12 patients per day – six in the morning and six in the afternoon.
An Alberta Health Services spokesperson told CTV News Edmonton the facility currently serves 12 patients and three people are waiting for a permanent spot at the site.
According to Kerry Williamson, it was identified in October as a priority for expansion, but increasing the number of operating days or taking other action had not yet been approved.
"Because waitlists fluctuate, with numbers changing as often as day by day, and because it takes time to create and staff additional dialysis slots in a community, we consider multiple factors to ensure that there will be ongoing demand before moving forward with an expansion," he said in a statement.
"As of November 2022, the longest an Alberta resident has been waiting for their preferred dialysis unit is approximately six months," he added.
Alberta's health critic, NDP MLA David Shepherd, says other Albertans have contacted him about needing to travel for health-care access, although Hilligas is the first he has heard from about needing to stay in another city indefinitely.
He noted it's common to have to travel for special treatment or operation, but called it "unacceptable" Hilligas can't be served by a facility in his own community and blamed the situation on the United Conservative government's "act last and act least" approach to health care.
CTV News Edmonton reached out to the ministry of health for comment on this story.
In the last year in the north medical zone, AHS has opened a dialysis unit in High Prairie, expanded an existing unit in Grande Prairie, and increased access to home dialysis.
'I JUST WANT TO GO HOME'
The executive director of the northern Alberta chapter of the Kidney Foundation, Flavia Robles, also says Hilligas' situation is somewhat common.
The foundation runs a program that offers financial support to kidney patients travelling 40 kilometres or more one way for treatment. On average, participants travel 275 kilometres in one direction.
"That, for sure, is a huge barrier for individuals," Robles said.
"Dialysis should be called life support. What happens if you don't do that? … Too many Albertans are having to face that from the rural community, especially in the northern Alberta region."
It's why the foundation, similar to AHS, recommends at-home treatment where possible and advocates for organ donation.
Hilligas is adamant his healthcare in Edmonton has been excellent. It is the absence of a light at the end of the tunnel – of knowing if he'll have to wait six months to get into Lac La Biche's unit – that upsets him.
"The staff's been great. I've had nothing but great care," he explained.
"I just want to go home. That's where my family is. That's where my support network is. That's where I want to be. And they cannot even give me an answer."
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Marek Tkach
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that was found floating over sensitive military sites in the western United States had been tracked by Canada's government since last weekend as it passed through Canadian airspace, sources tell CTV News.
The oldest preserved vertebrate brain has been found in a 319-million-year-old fossilized fish skull that was removed from an English coal mine over a century ago.
It took 40 years, but former NHL player and coach Ted Nolan is now one of eight Indigenous ex-NHL-ers being honoured hockey trading cards as a part of Upper Deck's First Peoples Rookie Card series.
A B.C. man who was mistaken for the target in a police takedown and shot by an officer in 2013 has had his lawsuit alleging negligence dismissed.
Three bodies found in a vacant Detroit-area apartment building have been identified as those of three aspiring rappers who went missing nearly two weeks ago, police said Friday.
For much of disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial, witnesses have talked about a generous and loving man -- but prosecutors want jurors to know that same man stole over US$4 million from his housekeeper's relatives after she died at work, and killed his wife and son to cover up his crimes.
A senior aide to Japan's prime minister is being dismissed after making discriminatory remarks about LGBTQ2S+ people.
A jury on Friday decided Elon Musk didn't deceive investors with his 2018 tweets about electric automaker Tesla.
A new research from a citizen science program suggests that stars are disappearing before our eyes at an 'astonishing rate.'
Alberta's high court is being asked to overturn a review board decision relating to the stabbing deaths of five young people at a Calgary house party on the grounds the former provincial justice minister interfered.
Police are investigating a series of tire slashing incidents in northeast Calgary.
Thousands of Alberta lawyers are expected to take part in an online debate Monday morning over the issue of mandatory Indigenous history training.
BHP is moving forward with its plans to build the world's largest potash mine.
After months of driving around the city with an advertisement for a kidney donor on her bright red car, Debbie Onishenko will soon be able to rip off the decals as her search has ended.
The community of Dundurn is rallying behind a firefighter who lost her home in a fire.
Saskatchewan is reacting to the removal of controversial amendment G4 to Bill C-21 by the federal Liberals, which banned certain semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.
Residents in Regina's North Central community are voicing safety concerns after a water main break resulted in icy sidewalk and road conditions.
A local non-profit is hoping a new office space can help reconnect Indigenous youth to their culture.
Temperatures are plummeting across the Maritimes as a blast of Arctic air moves into the region.
A seafood processing plant in Portage, N.B., has been completely destroyed following a major fire Friday afternoon.
Atlantic Lottery says it has been contacted by a player who believes they have the winning ticket to this week's $31 million Lotto Max Draw.
Speed cameras clocked a car driving 70 km/h over the limit. Here's how the owner fought the ticket and won
After being charged with speeding by a city-operated photo radar device, a Toronto family was able to successfully fight the charge in court largely due to one small detail.
The death of a longtime CBC journalist who was shoved to the ground in Toronto has now been classified as a homicide and police have issued an arrest warrant for a suspect in the case.
Police are investigating a stabbing in downtown Toronto Friday night.
The ongoing cold snap has Quebecers cranking up the heat in their homes, which Hydro-Quebe says has caused a record peak in electricity demand. In a Tweet Friday, the hydroelectricity supplier said that around 5:30 p.m., demand across the province reached 42,700 megawatts.
A reclusive billionaire who headed a Montreal tech company is stepping down one day after Radio-Canada/CBC published a report that alleged he paid teenage girls for sex for more than a decade.
The Montreal fire department is advising people to avoid Sherbrooke Street East at Carignan Avenue in the Longue Pointe neighbourhood as a five-alarm fire is burning.
A federal government department has fired 49 employees who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit while they were employed.
CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at the cancellations and closures in the Ottawa area due to the extreme cold temperatures.
EXTREME COLD WARNING
EXTREME COLD WARNING | Deep freeze hits Ottawa, wind chill drops below -40
Extreme cold temperatures will continue to grip Ottawa and eastern Ontario Friday night and Saturday morning, with the wind chill making it feel colder than -40.
Police say they’ve arrested three people and one person was taken to hospital following an armed robbery at Conestoga Mall on Thursday.
Ontario Provincial Police are once again reminding drivers to clear the snow and ice off of their vehicles before they head out onto the road.
Waterloo regional police issued a robbery warning Thursday evening after they said two convenience stores and a restaurant in Kitchener were robbed within a 30 minute span.
Canada's newest millionaire, an 18-year-old university freshman from northern Ontario, has achieved a lot of firsts with a recent lottery win. Here is her story.
Ontario Provincial Police have closed a portion of Highway 400 north of Toronto following multiple collisions due to whiteout conditions.
An investigation that lasted almost two years has resulted in moose hunting violation convictions for six people and a lodge in Red Lake in northwestern Ontario.
A fire destroyed a popular paint and hobby shop in Winkler Thursday afternoon with black smoke prompting Winkler police to close off a stretch of Highway 32 for more than an hour.
Manitoba has expanded the types of identification acceptable for use to purchase liquor, cannabis and lottery tickets in the province.
The Winnipeg Police Service responded to two homicides in the span of two hours this week.
The mayors of Port Coquitlam and Port Moody want Nav Canada — the organization that creates flight paths for airports across the country — to pause its plans for a new YVR arrivals route that will direct many large airplanes over their communities.
'Just absolute scum of the earth': Family upset after senior with dementia defrauded by someone posing as care worker
Seventy-nine-year-old William Herbert thought the woman coming to see him was a nurse who needed to do bloodwork. But instead of helping him, it’s alleged she stole from him.
Homicide investigators are looking into whether a vehicle fire in Surrey on Thursday morning is connected to the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy in Burnaby hours later.
An emergency room doctor on Vancouver Island is calling on the leadership of the health authority to resign, saying harassment by Island Health officials is prompting doctors to abandon the region amid a critical shortage of health-care workers.
A local state of emergency that was issued in Campbell River, B.C., following a landslide in mid-January has been lifted, the city announced Friday.
A man accused of fatally stabbing another man outside a busy mall in Nanaimo, B.C., has been charged with second-degree murder, according to the Nanaimo RCMP.